Seeking a little peace of mind, I took up fishing one year ago. I needed to renew my connection with the natural world, to find a place away on the water. For a while I was happy with my new hobby. My head was clear, my belly full, the distraction working. Then one day I pulled a rockfish up from the depths of the Pacific, deeper than I knew my line could reach. I tugged it too hard, strained at the edge of my line’s limits, ripped it upwards to the surface at too fast a rate. It inverted itself in my hands, stomach shooting from its mouth and eyes popping from its head. I learned that a fish out of water can wail. I let its wasted body drift away on the surface, far from its heavy home below. The hobby lost its peacefulness then. I have not cast my line since.
The artists in Upstream, a group exhibition featuring works by Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme, Marius Bercea, Marcello Dolce, Patrick Jackson, Marina Pinksy, Laure Prouvost, and Louise Sartor, assess radical disruptions of stasis, proposing adaptations and new ways forward: new myths for new histories, new skills for new labor, new erotics for new bodies.
Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme (b. 1983, Nicosia, Cyprus and Boston) live and work between Ramallah and New York. In their video installation And Yet My Mask is Powerful, the pair further their practice of collaging language, video, and sound to explore the myths and actualities of political violence. The video draws text from Adrienne Rich’s iconic 1972 poem “Diving into the Wreck” as it depicts a group encountering and contemplating a destroyed Palestinian village. By overlapping multiple histories and estranging the present, the duo produces what they describe as a “counter-mythology for a future memory.”
Marius Bercea (b.1979, Cluj-Napoca) lives and works in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Throughout his practice, Bercea merges stark Transylvanian and lush seaside motifs, highlighting the striking shift from the communist Romania of his youth to capitalist consumerism and illustrating a contemporary transience fueled by media and travel. The Botanists (2015) is a study of leisure in a moment of chaos, depicting two figures quietly set afloat in an overgrown––perhaps abandoned––greenhouse. Bercea juxtaposes languorous figures with atmospheres and landscapes of disaster.
Marcello Dolce (b. 1987, San Pedro) lives and works in Los Angeles. His aluminum sculptures, cast from fuzzy toilet seat covers and treated with pigmented patina and wax, recall a body, evocatively marine but subliminally human. Drawn to the mass-produced quality of banal home decor and tract housing, Dolce recasts fragments of suburban scenes into new, unsettling narratives.
Patrick Jackson (b. 1978, Los Angeles) lives and works in Los Angeles. Here he presents works from two recent series that address the psychological experience of walking in a city. In one, discarded billboard materials are cropped and stretched over panel, bringing anonymous icons of urban advertising down to street level. In the other, Jackson renders shoes of various styles in clay, exaggerated in size. The pairing of these billboard images and daffy shoes exemplifies the range of Jackson’s perspectives on making and representation, from his recontextualization of found materials to his absurdist manipulation of the handmade.
Marina Pinsky (b. 1986, Moscow) lives and works in Brussels. Here she presents a series of photographs documenting the riverbeds of the Rhine, framed beneath glass imprinted with ghostly textures of fish scales and fins. Pinsky’s larger practice considers the material and cultural production of photographic imagery, using an attention to the object to highlight and undercut assumptions embedded in the medium.
Laure Prouvost (b. 1978, Croix-Lille) lives and works between Antwerp and London. Her new works in Upstream, rebar stick figures with flatscreen television heads, mop the floor and gaze at the art while their thoughts––a stream of pronouncements, images, and sounds––emanate from their faces. “All the past history of this room has made some stains hard to clean,” one muses. These works, with their humorous and casually poetic use of language, emblematize Prouvost’s larger consideration of labor, fantasy, and pleasure.
Louise Sartor (b. 1988, Paris) lives and works in Paris. Her intimately scaled paintings of young women passing day to day moments are often cropped to the torso, focusing the image on the moment instead of the personality. Committed to toilet paper, egg cartons, and other consumer detritus, the paintings fuse an airy sense of memory with a more grizzled suggestion of decay.